47th Street: Residents Supportive of Back of the Yards High School

Back of the Yards High School Photo (Public Buliding Commission)

 An artist's rendering of what Back of the Yards High School
will look like when it opens in 2013. (Photo courtesy of Chicago Public Building Commission)

47th Street IconBy Sarah Brooks and Quintiliano Rios
The Red Line Project

Posted: Thursday, June 2, 2011

Amidst its current state of rubble, construction trucks, and an empty plot of land, there lies opportunity; built on this empty lot, a new high school in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood plans to open its doors  in 2013.

Located at 2111 W. 41st Street, the Back of the Yards High School is currently under construction. The school, with a capacity of 1,200, is in the early stages of construction and is scheduled to open in the Fall of 2013.

According to Ald. George A. Cardenas (12th Ward), construction on the neighborhood’s high school began on Oct. 4, 2010, and has been budgeted to cost $50 million to construct.

While the neighborhood contains many elementary schools, many high school students currently must travel distances outside of the Back of the Yards neighborhood in order to attend school due to overcrowded high schools.

Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood is situated from the boundaries of 39th through 55th Streets, ranging back to Halsted and Leavitt Streets.  The name “Back of the Yards” refers to the stockyards, as the area used to be an industrial district.

The nearest high schools for Back of the Yards residents include Richards Vocational High School, located at 5009 S. Laflin Street, Garfield Alternative High School, located in Chicago’s neighborhood at 220 W. 45th Street, and Thomas A. Hendricks Community Academy, located in at 4316 S. Princeton Avenue.

Supported by former mayor Richard Daley, Cardenas, and Back of the Yards residents, the new high school is responding to a local need for a strong high school presence in the area.  Many residents of the Back of the Yards have responded positively to the high school’s development.

Two Back of the Yards residents, Maria Bonilla and Angela Cruz, spoke in support of the high school's development.

Bonilla said that many children in the neighborhood travel far to get to the nearest school, and having a high school within the neighborhood itself is a great asset for the community. Cruz hopes that the high school implements more activities for the children to participate in.

“Well, programs that would have sports or more activities so they [students] wouldn’t join vandalism on the streets: sports, activities like art,” Cruz said.

Bonilla and Cruz talked about what programs they thought would best benefit the students, adding that a new high school that is safe could potentially alleviate gang activity that is prevalent in the area.

“I would like to see more security, because in many high schools, the children, well, they are now young adults, become gang members and come into the school and they involve other kids, who might be more educated, that know they shouldn’t join gangs but with their influence [gang members] they ruin others also,” Bonilla said.

Many school workers identified with the sentiments these parents expressed.  Juana Martinez, teacher’s assistant at Seward Communication Arts Academy, described the reaction of residents in the area.

“I heard a lot of complaining about ‘we need a high school in the area, we need a high school in the area’, but I didn’t really see anybody doing anything about it, you know?" Martinez said. "So it’s just something they’ve been waiting for for a long time and I believe they’re anxious about seeing it happen.” 

Although Martinez had high hopes for the school’s development, she also was concerned about whether some students might not be able to get in.

“I’m excited, the only thing I’m not sure about is I hear there’s a possibility of maybe a charter school, and that’s the only thing … that would change my opinion because if it’s a charter school I know that’s going to limit how many kids in our neighborhood will be able to get in,” Martinez said.

Patricia Romero, social worker at Agustin Lara Academy, expressed a cautious opinion about what she felt the school’s impact would be on the community.

“I don’t know exactly if it’s going to eliminate the issues," Romero said. "I think it’s a good start, but we have to see how it goes once the kids are actually enrolled because it’s still crossing gang lines.”

Juan Urtado, a 7th-grade student at San Miguel School, had high hopes for the new school.

When asked about what programs he would like to be implemented in the new high school, he said, “probably some programs that don’t involve kids being out on the streets.” 

Interactive map: Where Back of the Yards will be located in proximity to other high schools in the area.

View Back of the Yards High School in a larger map

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